Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Doctrine’ Category

We need hope, but from whence does it come?

Certainly a sense of purpose or destiny or family and friends bring hope, but what about when these fail or seem distant? Hear what source of hope the Scriptures give us:

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6

Given that this was written before any of the four Gospels and the book of Acts, it must refer to the Old Testament from which Jesus had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”” Luke 24:45-47 Now, I am not excluding the great encouragement and instruction given by the New Testament, but I magnify the value of reading and studying the Old, especially for those many of you who don’t spend much time there or see much value in it, thinking I’m “not under law but under grace” Romans 6:14 (1) It was written for our instruction, so read the instruction manual before assembly.

Now we get to the meat of our source of hope. The passage reveals a two-fold instruction on hope from God with an ancillary instruction on hope from fellow believers.

Those who are blood bought, Holy Spirit sealed believers (2) increase in hope of their relationship to God and future rescue through persisting in faith in the midst of difficulty- perseverance. In fact, the teaching of perseverance of the saints is pointing out how believers persist in belief to the end while “the Spirit explicitly says” of those who do not truly belonging to God through belief in Jesus “that in later times some will fall away from the faith.” I Timothy 4:1

How does this strange occurrence of hardship increasing trust in God work? As the believer comes to understand that he or she does not deserve anything and yet God is carrying him or her through difficulty and revealing Himself in the process, the believer trusts more. The unbeliever begins to doubt that God cares and pulls further away. Many a believer will also struggle with doubts and be estranged, but it will not persist. In the end faith will persist. The believer perseveres.

The greatest help to perseverance is the Word of God. For this reason, Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted believers all over the world, frequently reports how believers ask for Scriptures over security, food, or shelter. The Bible brings hope and especially when we are paying attention during difficulty. The passage says “the encouragement of the Scriptures”. As we read of others who struggled but found God’s grace to persevere, we find strength. Promises of God impart strength. Ultimately, the excellency of the character of God imparts strength. Strength comes in the form of hope. When we are hopeless, then we are weak. When we are full of hope, then we are strong, strong in the Lord.

But God gives yet another avenue for increasing hope- fellowship. The passage speaks of “same mind”, that is, unity of belief and purpose. Then it says “with one voice glorify”, which is unified worship. When we worship together in unity and convey how God has increased our faith in difficulty and have comforted others in their difficulty with the hope of God and shared Scriptures of encouragement and instruction, then true fellowship and encouragement has occurred and hope is increased. For this reason “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The other disciplines of the faith like prayer, witness, fasting, service, and so forth, are all a part of this perseverance-Scripture-fellowship encouragement that strengthens faith leading to hope. What a good God we have who for His glory and our good by “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

And one day we will be removed from all difficulty and spend eternity in His presence. That will be glory!

  1. In context, this verse has nothing to do with the value or truth of the Old Testament. Rather, it refers to the source and power for overcoming sin, grace applied by the Holy Spirit and not striving to fulfill the requirement of the law. Why? Well it is because “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 2:16
  2. These are not a special breed or dispensation of believers, just plain believers. I use these adjectives to exclude those who have mental assent to the things of God and are spectators in the church, but not saved.

Read Full Post »

Snow delayed church today, enabling extended, much needed sleep and more time for personal worship. I frequently recall the phrase “Prophet, Priest, and King”, which pretty much summarizes all that Jesus is to us. But as this thought returned to me as I was reading the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 7, I began reflecting on who this King, this Messiah would be, and was, and is. In the next hour I listed and referenced the following names, titles, and functions of our Lord. It is not exhaustive*, but it is glorious.

Messiah shall be…

  • Creator Genesis 1:26, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16
  • Seed of woman Genesis 3:15
  • Seed of Abraham Genesis 12:3, 17:19
  • Prophet Deuteronomy 18:18-19
  • Captain of the host of the Lord Joshua 5:14
  • Holy One of Israel Isaiah 48:17
  • Suffering Servant Isaiah 52:13 – 53:11
  • Root and Branch of David Isaiah 11:1, 53:2; Revelation 22:16
  • Redeemer Job 19:25, Isaiah 54:5
  • Son of Man Daniel 7:13
  • King Daniel 7:14, Isaiah 23:5, Matthew 27:11
  • Messiah the Prince Daniel 9:25
  • Priest and King Zechariah 6:13
  • Son of God Matthew 26:63-64, Luke 22:70, John 1:34, 3:18
  • Word John 1:1
  • I Am John 8:58
  • Savior Matthew 1:21, Luke 2:11
  • Sustainer Colossians 1:17
  • Head of the Church Colossians 1:18
  • Resurrection and Life John 11:25

As a recent documentary my wife and I were watching said, “He is worth it.” Worth what you may say? He is worth giving up all that we desire and pursue, worth pain and persecution, misunderstanding and dismissal, and loss of all for gain of Him. My life doesn’t always reflect that worth in all I do and say and think, but I believe it and am wanting it more as time goes along.

*He is God, The Door, The Good Shepherd, The Alpha and Omega, Lord, Friend, The Lamb, Warrior King, and on and on the Scripture reveals. Extend my list and reference it. It will focus your mind and strengthen your heart.

Read Full Post »

 “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4

There resides deep within our collective thinking a dichotomy that somehow there is a separation between love (or kindness) and truth. The word dichotomy comes from the Greek and means literally “to cut in two”. This implies that love and truth are mutually exclusive, that is to say, the only thing they have in common is that they have nothing in common. You know this in daily conversation. “Oh, she’s just a bleeding heart liberal who couldn’t see the truth as plain as the nose on her face.” Or “He is just bullheaded (1) and unkind and only cares about the facts.” “She thinks she knows so much, but doesn’t care a bit about people’s feelings or how much people are being hurt.” “He is gullible but such a helpful and friendly guy.” We evaluate churches and ministries in a similar way. “I love that church. They are so caring and help people regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs.” “They uphold the truth but there’s no spirit in their worship.”

I see four possibilities here: 1) Kindness and truth are two different concepts with two different ways of applying them to life. 2) There is a societal dichotomy in thinking, speech, and action surrounding kindness and truth. 3) Personal perspectives and biases cause us to see a dichotomy in kindness and truth where there isn’t one. Or 4) there is no dichotomy apart from our misunderstanding and application of these two concepts.

Even with all of the biases of perception, it is obvious that there are significant differences in how people do life, and some lean toward kindness more than truth and others toward truth over kindness. But are these two concepts poles apart or two sides of the same coin? Have we misunderstood what they are and how to apply them in our lives? I try to find answers to my questions in Scripture, which communicates the truth and love of God. Let’s look at some things it says.

Proverbs 3:3-4 says, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” The verses are explaining that both are important and should go together in your clinging to them. You should take both to the seat of your emotions and will and make them visible in how you do life. God will be pleased and you will gain a good reputation with people even if you don’t always please everyone.

Romans 3:24-26 “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” I see truth in His righteousness and being just. I see kindness in His grace and being our Justifier. There would be no need or love of His kindness if there was no truth and He was not just. There would be no need or love of His truth if there was no kindness to rescue us and restore us to that truth.

Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.” Only He could pull off both at the same time. That is what “just and the justifier” means in the previous verse.

Psalm 116:5 “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.” Righteous means “morally right”, which then is based on truth. Compassionate means feeling and showing concern for others, which is based in kindness toward others.

Psalm 5:4 “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You.” Wickedness and evil necessitate a right and good, which means there is moral truth. But we see here and in the Luke verse below that because of God’s goodness, He acts kindly and rejoices over sinners who turn away from wickedness.

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” God loves those who love truth. He knows you cannot pay the price for your sin, but He does require that you admit to guilt before Him and call on Him to save and change you.

Micah 7:20 “You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old.” There it is, the strongest most straightforward statement that truth and love are merely two sides of the same coin. Hebrew parallelism (2) helps us to expand our concept of truth and our concept of love. They are part of each other. The reference to Jacob and Abraham, both mean their descendants, the nation of Israel. (3) When God gives one, He is giving the other.

II John 1-6 “The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.” Truth and love are intertwined and of equal standing and part and parcel of one another. Love is to obey truth; truth is to embrace love.

I Corinthians 13:4,6 “Love…does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” Love is not merely a warm fuzzy feeling. It is a way of thinking about what is right and true and therefore best for someone with whom love is felt and expressed in words and actions.

Ephesians 3:19   “…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” This love of Christ does not mean that knowledge is useless by comparison, but rather there is a higher knowledge, loving Christ.

Colossians 2:2-3 “…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”   The love that is knitting their hearts together is resulting in full knowledge.

These verses make a very strong case for kindness and truth being inseparable concepts. They are not the same but are like two sides of coin, facing in opposite directions, holding equal value, and part of one another. That being the case, what can we do about the tendency to treat them as mutually exclusive?

We pursue them equally. It is not loving to allow someone to continue in ignorance or wickedness. Supporting evil in society that is clearly counter to the truth of the Word of God is not loving and tolerant. It is wicked and unloving. Jesus did not say to woman caught in adultery, ‘I know your upbringing and circumstances were difficult so I forgive you of your sinful lifestyle that you continue in because you can’t help it.’ Rather “Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) They both knew she had sinned, but Jesus extended forgiveness for repentance (“sin no more”). This does not mean we excuse wickedness and that there are no consequences for evil acts. It means we work with people who are repentant to live through and above the consequences. It is not truthful to overlook people’s needs and pleas just because you can or the law supports you in it. Have compassion and empathy in feeling and action. It will reveal deeper truth and benefit the recipient and benefactor. 

  1. not the term usually used but I don’t repeat the ones that are
  2. Hebrew Parallelism – The Christian Researcher provides a very good article on this concept.
  3. The context assures us that this refers to the people of God- Micah 7:14: “Shepherd Your people with Your scepter” and 7:20: “Which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old.”

Read Full Post »

My recent reflection on the hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” (“The Only Begotten of the Father”) had a precursor thought to it in the form of a poem. I noticed the late 4th century date of composition and reflected that there was much heresy in the church then that centered mostly around the person and work of Christ.* True believers are called upon to always “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3) Considering both the earnestly contending for the faith that has occurred in times of challenge to the truth and the person and work of Christ as revealed in Scripture, I wrote the following poem:

Songs, sermons, various creeds
Born in time of heresy
For those moments and those needs
Help us all their truths to see

To the Christ of Scripture point
The One Who God did anoint
God the Savior did appoint
He beginning and endpoint

Our focus must always be
Second person of the Three
In Jesus the Father see
He bought grace so rich and free

By words and deeds we defend
Truth of Christ against new trend
Knowing truth will transcend
Not allow with error to blend

New songs of praise we should write
With Scripture truth, never trite
Sermons preach with Gospel might
Know the creeds, why they are right

*In reality, there is always a focus on destroying our knowledge and faith about the person and work of Christ. This early time was just when many of the heresies went through the church the first time or first became public.

Read Full Post »

While preparing to lead two songs for Sunday worship, I was drawn to the words and odd tune*, by Western standards, of the first song, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”. The three verses translated and frequently used in English hymnbooks of the nine originally written by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius in the late 4th century focus on Christ’s eternality and the praise due to Him. My meditation focused on the first verse:

“Of the Father’s love begotten
ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore!”

The concept of begotten of the Father is indeed a mystery. Mothers bear children and fathers beget children, but Christ was not created, so what does it mean? Afterall, this idea is used by the skeptics and cults to deny His divinity and eternality, both of which Scriptures clearly teach. I sought out commentary and interpretation but most importantly related Scripture passages. I discovered two ways in which Jesus Christ is “the only begotten” of the Father.

In the story about Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, God uses the term only son when He commands the act and after He prevents him.** As it says in Hebrews 11:17-18, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” (Hebrews 11:17-18 NASB1995) How was Isaac his only begotten son when he had an older son, Ishmael? Verse 18 gives the answer: “In Isaac…” In other words, Isaac had a special relationship with his father. We are brothers and sisters who are in Christ by faith in Him. Therefore, since Christ is our older brother (Hebrews 2:11), God the Father has many children also. But there is little doubt that Christ has a special relationship with the Father since He is the second person of the Godhead. So the first reason Christ is the only begotten is the uniqueness of His relationship to the Father.

Jesus says something in John 8:42 that has long bothered me because I didn’t know why He seemingly repeats Himself. Does He repeat for emphasis, because that was a cultural way of focusing the hearers’ attention, or because it really isn’t repetition? “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”” As I considered this turn of words, I considered that “proceeded forth” is a good definition for begotten. In eternity past, and therefore not marked by time, Jesus proceeded forth from the Father. This is not a moment of production but of introduction as God, being one in substance with the Father. Having “come from” God is the act of having “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7) I think that Jesus was declaring to these unbelieving Pharisees that He was both God and Man- God by way of “proceeded forth” and Man by way of “have come from”. The second way in which He is the only begotten of the Father is proceeding forth from the Father and revealing “His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father” when “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Jesus is Eternal God, revealed in the flesh. As “Alpha and Omega” He is the “Source” of all things and the “Ending” point of all that ever will be. To Him be praise and glory!

*It was written as plainsong, which means that it has no meter.

**Genesis 22

Read Full Post »

Preachers love “p’s”, because there are such a variety of meaningful words, and particularly theological words, that begin with p’s for those three point sermons. One of those very memorable “triple p’s” concerns the progress of salvation in a person’s life that is summarized in Romans 8:28-30. Salvation has sequential nature to it.* My experience of salvation is past, present, and future. At the moment of my believing in Jesus, God justified me. Now He is sanctifying me. In the future He will glorify me. In the Romans passage, Paul speaks of all three of these in the past tense. I think there are two possible reasons for the past tense. For one thing, these events are so certain that they are completed even though not presently carried out. Secondly, it seems like to me, that since God is eternal and timeless, He sees the whole progress of the salvation He is bringing about in us as one event. He has accomplished it, it is complete, and it stands fast. Frequently this sequence of salvation is taught as God saving us from the penalty of sin in the past, the power of sin in the present, and the presence of sin in the future.

As I was reading in the Scripture yesterday, this triplet of penalty, power, and presence came afresh to my mind. Then I paused for a moment and reflected on the fact that this view of the work of God centers on His process to remove sin from us and us from sin. That is a good emphasis and right. But with what was it replaced, I mused? The answer is not hard; it is righteousness. And how might we think of His imputation of righteousness to us in terms of the progress of salvation?

In the past, we were saved for (by) the provision of righteousness. “ He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) This verse most clearly communicates the great transaction, the glorious transfer. Jesus provided me with His righteousness, therefore, I am justified in His sight.

In the present, we are saved for (by) practice of righteousness. “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) As God is at work, he calls us to work along side Him in the power that He provides. He gets all the glory and we get the benefit of being changed and participating. As one of my pastor’s favorite** verses says, “…seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) Perseverance of the saints is not merely hanging on by fingertips, but the ability to fully succeed as a believer.*** God and we are active in our sanctification.

In the future, we are saved for (by) perfection of righteousness. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2) If you want to understand better what glory and glorification will be like, dwell on Jesus. (John 1:16-18) This realization is a great motivation to live a more godly life, as the next verse in 1 John 3 confirms: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (v.3) God will one day glorify us so that we may see Him (Matthew 5:8).

In summary, and more concisely,

     I am saved from the

            penalty of sin (past),

            power of sin (present),

            presence of sin (future),

                         and

     I am saved for (by)

            provision of righteousness (past),

            practice of righteousness (present),

            perfection of righteousness (future).

*I do not say a “time element” because God’s predestination before time and our life in Him for eternity are timeless. However, there is both an order (sequence) and a time element to the moment of salvation, the process of sanctification, and the inception of glorification.

**And it is quickly becoming one of mine, given the great encouragement it gives that God cares and has already cared enough to provide all that we need to please Him and succeed.

***Those few who would shame Him by consistently only surviving are disciplined. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

Read Full Post »

I was so happy for and with my Sunday School Class this morning. I had come up with three lists that I thought would fortify their young faith. The first was evidences from the Scripture that Jesus is a man. The class gave me all seven of them. Some of the answers were synonyms for the words I had listed. This was not a review of a list we had recently gone over. This resulted from several months of emphasizing that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Could you come up with seven evidences from Scripture that Jesus is man like my 10-12 year olds did? Here is our list: 1) born 2) baptized 3) hungry 4) tempted 5) slept 6) bled, and 7) died. 

Our lesson today was about Jesus calling the disciples. It is amazing the trust that two disciples of John the Baptist had in him that they immediately followed Jesus when John identified Him as “the Lamb of God”. Andrew was one of those disciples, and when he found his brother Simon, he told him that “we have found the Messiah”. That is quite a statement for someone he had just met on recommendation of someone he trusted. But as Jesus told Nathaniel soon afterwards, “you will see greater things than this”, meaning the insight Jesus had into Nathaniel’s every move was “small potatoes” compared to the miracles he would see later. Their enthusiastic, new faith would be transformed into life-long, martyrdom faith. 

So, if these men were being called to be disciples, what is a disciple anyway? In that culture spiritual teachers would have a following of those who wanted to learn the teacher’s life and insights.* I asked my students to tell me 7 things that disciples do (They actually listed 8, but I forgot to write down the last one. before I left. And again, some of their responses were synonyms of mine): 1) follow 2) believe 3) learn from 4) obey 5) copy 6) tell (share, testify), and 7) represent.

By the time He got James and John on board** and Matthew hosting his friends to meet Jesus, we didn’t have time for my other list: Scriptural Evidences of Jesus as God. I’m glad I didn’t. It would be too much for one week, but we will talk about it soon. And here it is: 1) virgin birth 2) testimony of man (John the Baptist, Nathaniel, Peter, Thomas, etc.) 3) testimony of God 4) commanded nature 5) healed diseases 6) sinless, and 7) rose from the dead.

My hope is that the truth of God’s Word will sink in deeply so that the false doctrines of the world will not later drown their faith. It is so good to see them want to know truth.

*It is a far better way to teach and learn than we generally do today. Apprentices in a trade who constantly shadow a mentor/boss learn this way, but so much of what we pass off for education is assembly line, mass production. Eli Whitney’s interchangeable parts work great for reproducing gun barrels and stocks, but for critically thinking, problem-solvers, saturated in truth, not so much. On the other hand, for basic rote learning to put tools in the toolbox, it works fairly well if the toolboxes are willing.

**Really it should be “off board”, since they were on board when Jesus called them, mending nets with their father Zeb.

Read Full Post »

Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains